There is still time to enjoy these must-read poetry collections. Don’t miss out on the best poetry of the year.
2021 has been a great year for poetry. There were many debut collections printed. Poets released new collections to add to their repertoire. Even great poets of the past had new curated collections released this year. It was hard to keep up. But there are always a few collections that stand out.
These collections cover a wide range of topics all with a unique take on the subjects. Martina McGowan reflects on the Black Lives Matter movement, while Jasmine Mans expresses her experiences as a Black girl growing up in America. Raymond Antrobus shares what it means to be deaf in a world of hearing, while Threa Almontaser discusses how misinterpreting language can be a survival skill.
Each collection is full of beautifully crafted poems that will open the reader’s eyes to the world around them. Experience the world in a new way with these must-read poetry collections from 2021.
If a book of poetry can be used as a call to action, this is that book. With her amazing free verse, Dr. Martina McGowan addresses the violence, social injustices, and generational trauma of being Black in America. Her poetry expresses the range of emotion she experienced following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. What’s more, she reflects on the Black Lives Matter protests and the persistent attacks on Black communities, leading readers to stand up for justice.
McGowan is a doctor and grandmother who has been a victim of social, racial, and sexual injustices. Her experiences will live with readers long after they have finished reading her poetry. Her vulnerability and grief pull at the heart of the reader and are partnered with beautiful illustrations by Diana Ejaita. If Amanda Gorman and Maya Angelou’s work move you, then this collection cannot be missed.
After his father’s death, Raymond Antrobus traveled to Barcelona, Spain. While there he spent time meditating inside Gaudi’s Cathedral. He considered the idea that silence, sound, and acoustics could connect people to God. Sound, like prayers and hymns, are always important in worship after all. But how are deaf people included in this kind of worship?
Antrobus experiences the world differently than most. He is deaf. This means that the way he communicates, connects with others, and relates to the world around him is entirely different from the status quo. The world takes hearing for granted, which only hinders those who cannot hear. Antrobus uses his poetry to examine the deaf experience as it relates to loss, grief, education, and language, both spoken and signed.
This debut collection by Threa Almontaser asks how mistranslation can be a form of survival and self-knowledge. These poems take parts of culture and language to and from areas of the world so far from each other, changing them, adapting and repurposing them to make some semblance of home in the space between cultures.
Part love letter to the country and people of Yemen, part portrait of a young Muslim woman living in post-9/11 New York, and part examination of what it means to carry echoes of the life before tragedy in your body, Almontaser’s poems speak with a unique voice. The speakers of these poems choose to speak with a force beyond the limits of imagination and instead speak to navigating imperial violence across multiple anthems and accents. This collection is incendiary and rides the fine line between carnality and tenderness of the human spirit.
Collecting poems between 1971 and 2001, this collection of June Jordan’s poetry showcases her best work. While her poems span decades, her early work still rings true today. Many of her poems discussed tough topics such as police brutality, violence against women, and racism. But what makes Jordan’s work truly stand out against others, is that it has an uncanny ability to discuss these topics with radical kindness, candor, and humor.
While many see Jordan’s work as activism that can fuel revolutions, it is actually filled with love for her community and hope for a better world. At its core, Jordan’s poetry is an opportunity for solidarity amongst marginalized people and those who fall outside the norm. This book brings together her powerful voice and beautiful work into one must-read poetry collection. With an introduction by Pulitzer prize-winning poet Jericho Brown, this collection shouldn’t be missed.
This poetry collection explores race, feminism, and queer identity. Jasmine Mans writes to call herself, and readers, home. These poems explore what it means to be a young, queer, Black woman, a daughter of Newark. The spoken word poet, takes readers through the painful and joyous path to adulthood, making this must-read poetry for any woman on the same journey.
This is a book about finding truth, belonging, and healing. Jericho Brown describes this collection as “carrying in your hands a Black woman’s heart.” These poems are a journey that readers take to find the truth, belonging, and healing they need.
As the year comes to an end, reflect on all the incredible poetry you’ve read this year. What were some of your favorite poems? Who were your favorite poets? What collections would you recommend to others?
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